What global firms are looking for in IT (part 3)


The article below is a translation of the original:
Doing It Right: What global enterprises are looking for in IT infrastructure (part 3)

Looking beyond globalization and towards MEF

In the last two articles, we went over advice for IT managers looking to avoid potential trouble by staying aware of global trends. In this article, we will expand on that by exploring the international MEF standard. We’ll take a look at just what MEF is, how it should be used, and why it deserves your attention.

What is MEF?
The amount of packets flowing through worldwide networks continues to swell exponentially, bringing us closer to the zettabyte (ZB) era. In anticipation, the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) has been working to promote a framework, or service standard, that will allow Carrier Ethernet, which currently dominates business networks, to be used in the same way anywhere in the world.

MEF consists of over 210 organizations including telecommunications service providers, network device and software developers, semiconductor firms, test operation groups and the like, for the purpose of accelerating the worldwide introduction of Carrier Ethernet-based networks and services. MEF defines Carrier Ethernet services, formulates technical specifications, and determines interoperability standards. The original specifications were formulated in CE 1.0, with functions and interconnectivity enhanced in CE 2.0 in 2012. MEF is currently formulating service principles that will allow graphical representation of the user’s own virtual network in CE 3.0, so that users will be able to dynamically create, modify, and delete services through customer portals/software. By abstracting the service, users will be able to overcome the various limitations of existing networks and create virtual services from physical networks. One could say that Carrier Ethernet has come to resemble the cloud.

Currently, telcos around the world are flocking to obtain MEF CE 2.0 certification. As such, it would serve IT well to have a firm grasp of the background and benefits of MEF CE 2.0 compliance when selecting a telecommunications provider.

To shed light and provide details on this subject, we contacted Hidenori Nakajima from the Network Strategy & Architecture Department of Colt Technology Services, a domestic telecommunications operator that has obtained MEF CE 2.0 certification.

International clout of MEF
To date, 45 telecom carriers and ISPs in 19 countries have introduced MEF certification (CE 2.0). A total of 136 services are CE 2.0-certified, and vendor certification has been undertaken at 44 companies for 237 products. This indicates worldwide recognition for adopting these international standards.

Mr. Nakajima states, “When connecting Point A and Point B across international borders, differences in connectivity environments may require significant preliminary groundwork to ensure that problems do not arise after service is activated. At present, Japan’s domestic Carrier Ethernet services can guarantee quality thanks to being well-established. However, this can be considered an isolated phenomenon and one can expect fluctuation in quality in other countries. However, with the adoption of international standards, users can simply select a service provider that is certified to obtain consistent quality and reliability, regardless of country or region. Furthermore, service providers can reliably extend their coverage by partnering with other providers that are also compliant. Because CE 2.0 specifications for service, technology, and quality are all firmly established, providers do not need to devote massive resources towards verification. They can therefore concentrate on service enhancement by focusing on operations.”

It is safe to say that MEF is important for both the user and the service provider, and the application of Carrier Ethernet in corporate networks has been spreading beyond regions and countries. The interconnection specifications proposed by CE 2.0 boost this trend, and it is expected that the usage of MEF-certified services will expand even further.

Support for virtualization
A virtual network means that it is possible to communicate without physical equipment. Virtualization has advanced simultaneously in every field. Starting with virtual consoles for PCs, there has been demand to handle machines in different physical locales as one large integrated machine for quite some time, and it is expected that this trend will accelerate in the future. Commenting on this, Mr. Nakajima told us, “In the future, concepts related to virtualization will develop more and more in every direction. MEF has defined CE 2.0 with its eyes on the shift toward virtualization. Building networks with certified provider services and devices will not only satisfy the needs of today’s static networks, but also lay the foundation for the dynamic networks of the future.”

In other words, MEF allows you to relinquish absolute control over every aspect of your network without sacrificing integrity, an advantage that will be critical to the success of global virtual networks in the coming years. The more standardization advances, the more services will expand to a broader range of customers.

More sophisticated service with LSO by MEF
In third-generation networks, Life-Cycle Service Orchestration (LSO) is used for the API. LSO enables links between end-to-end cloud networks, and ensures both quality and security.

Mr. Nakajima explains what MEF aims for, saying, “The current standard defined by MEF is CE 2.0, but 3.0 is on the horizon. The key to the transition will be virtualization. Metro Ethernet, which continues making strides toward virtualization, now pairs existing networks with SDN and NFV. With the two technologies providing enhanced performance and advanced capability, global networks will be utilized more and more dynamically. For example, although a service may be defined between Point A and Point B, capacity will actually be set through NFV at Point C, scaling up or down instantly as needed.” This is the sort of efficiency LSO brings to the forefront.

The advantages of standardization in terms of network issues
MEF standardization is useful when addressing network issues as well. The five primary aspects to consider are failure recovery time, bandwidth scalability, route protection in the event of undersea cable cuts, low latency, and flexible service agreements. According to Mr. Nakajima, standardization addresses each of these. He says, “As for failure recovery time, redundancy and testing criteria have been standardized for services from multiple providers, promoting swift and sure recovery processes. Bandwidth scaling standards enable predictable and reliable usability. Automation enables service activation only as needed. Multiple compliant providers enable route protection in the event that an undersea cable is severed. Clear SLA terms enable low-latency guarantees. And finally, adherence to a common standard enables any given service agreement involving multiple operators to be negotiated smoothly and efficiently.”

Colt has been the recipient of MEF Excellence Awards for 11 years running.

Conclusion
Japan’s domestic network is on the cutting edge and is an example of isolated evolution at the same time. As society becomes more global, the telecommunications industry and IT managers alike would do well to turn attention to international trends and standards. Ahead of us is a seamless world in which “internationalization” is so common that we are no longer conscious of it. The world demands the efficiency of a single standard, one that serves market participants and responds to the demand — MEF aims to make this world a reality.

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